Living in Norwich is a bit like living in a bubble, particularly if you are living on campus. Widely accepted as one of the safest areas in the country, it can be disconcerting to be reminded that UEA, like any other university, can be home to its fair share of problems.
This week, Concrete was the first publication in the UK to break the news that a former student Luke Mallaband was due to appear in court over allegations he had been secretly filming students showering, undressing and using the toilet. We were also the first to break the news that he had pleaded guilty.
With 38 videos filmed over three years in campus buildings, this throws campus safety sharply into focus as many students are wondering how he was able to get away with this for so long. Going forward we can hope that the university will be putting measures into place to ensure that similar incidents do not happen again. The university is assuring students that these actions remain that of one individual and are “no reflection on UEA’s secure and welcoming environment.”
Yet whilst it can be tempting to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that these sorts of actions aren’t common at UEA, sexual assault and harassment are just as evident here as they are at any university. This week Caitlin Doherty spoke to students across the country, including at UEA, to discover if they had experienced sexual assault or harassment. The results were heart-breaking and it is shocking with how commonplace these experiences are, including those against men. One anonymous contributor told us, “A guy had been coming on to me for around a year and propositioned me for sex. I said no, and he waited until everyone had left the room and hit me in crotch. As I doubled over he then hooked me in the face. Afterwards he told me that it served me right for being rude to him.” This happened at UEA and sadly is not the only the only incident we heard.
Call me a femiNazi all you want, I don’t think it’s acceptable that girls and women, as well as men, are having to put up with this as a fact of life. Unfortunately, we seem to have adopted a culture that warns girls not to get attacked whilst ignoring the root problem: the attackers. With students walking out on consent classes in York, we have to question if these are enough anymore to tackle the problem. Drastic action needs to be taken enact massive societal change and its time for us to unbury our heads and step out from the bubble. We can do better, and so can UEA.
With feminism all the talk of the Concrete offices, we got the chance to speak to Karen Jones about her recent installation as UEA chancellor. Whilst she may not embrace the label personally, her values embody everything we expect from UEA going forward. She told us, “I think it is shameful and extraordinary that we still have to say that there should be equal numbers of women at every level, in every organisation in business, but we still have to say it.”
This year me, Caitlin and Jessica are proud to be the first all-female senior editorial team Concrete has ever had. Whilst newspapers around the country have as few as 26 percent female staff, the remainder of the editorial team is made up of over 76 percent women. But, regardless of the gender you identify with, Concrete remains open for all. Want to find out more about getting involved? Come join us in the red bar Tuesday night from 7pm for postpub-pub.
We can also reveal that the union policy advocating rent strikes (issue 328) has currently been dropped from the union council agenda, in part response to the negative backlash surrounding the issue. Whilst it is unclear whether this policy will resurface at a later date, I can only hope that it has been left on the ‘bad ideas pile’ alongside crimping, Ugg boots and decaf coffee.
See you again in a fortnight!